An open laptop with smart phone and credit cards.Sadly, we live in a world where our credit and debit card information is stolen regularly. I’ve received the “Did you make a purchase in [fill in the blank with any city]? No? OK, we need to freeze your account” call way too many times. The first time, I thought, was an anomaly. Then it happened again…and again. I’ve even had my credit card and debit card information stolen in the same day!

If you’ve never received the dreaded call, consider yourself lucky. The whole ordeal is a huge hassle. You either have to find time to go to your bank or credit union to get a new card, or wait for a new one to come in the mail. As someone who makes the majority of purchases on a card, I’m really in a bind when I lose access to my credit or debit card.

After getting my information stolen twice in the same month, I was determined to put an end to it. I asked the fraud protection person what I could do. The response I got was “Nothing. It’s just bad luck.” I was furious. I threatened to close my account at my credit union and open one elsewhere. It got me nowhere. In fact, the fraud protection person told me it didn’t make a difference to them if I stayed at my credit union or left because they don’t work specifically for my credit union. They monitor any Visa cardholder regardless of what institution a person’s money belongs to.

Despite the temporary frustration, I decided to stick with my credit union. I found out that many people who’d visited the same gas station as me also had their information stolen. How could this happen, you ask? It’s all thanks to ATM skimmers. Skimming is a process in which a device is attached to an ATM or other card reader that allows criminals to steal your information. While it’s unfortunate it happens so often, here are some things you can do to limit your risk:

Be on the Lookout for Irregularities

Skimmers are small devices that fit over the slot you swipe your cards into. If something looks out of place, don’t swipe your card. The skimming devices are typically glued or taped to the machine. If there is a device that looks like it can be removed, stay away.

To complete the skimming process, criminals also need to obtain your PIN. They do this by placing a hidden camera somewhere near the machine. The cameras themselves are oftentimes hard to spot, although you should be on the lookout for tiny holes or slots that a camera could be placed. Another way to protect your PIN is to shield the keypad as you type in your PIN. Just because you don’t find a hidden camera doesn’t mean there isn’t a person looking around the corner watching you type your PIN.

Use Familiar ATMs

Stick with ATMs that are under video surveillance and aren’t in dimly-lighted spots. Machines at grocery stores, airports and convenience stores are highly vulnerable. If at all possible, stay away and stick with ones at your credit union or bank branch.

Check Your Bank Balances Frequently

 Luckily for me, the fraud protection team has always been quick to notice an irregular purchase and contact me before I realized anything was abnormal. Sign up to be alerted on your cell phone anytime a purchase is made. If you don’t report fraud within 60 days, you have unlimited liability. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

 

RFID Wallet

Not only do we have to be on the lookout for devices that are placed on ATMs and other card readers, it’s also important to know criminals also use devices that can scan your cards as they walk past you. That’s right. From a few feet away, a skimmer can grab your information without you having a clue. However, a RFID-blocking wallet can help deny the skimmer access to your personal information and help protect your identity.

As you can see, there are steps you can take to keep your personal information secure.

Have you ever had any of your personal information skimmed? If so, what precautions do you take now to ensure it doesn’t happen again? Let us know in the comments below!

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